By Uzma Jafri
As the child of airline employees, I am very adept at traveling. I can pack in 15 minutes or days ahead of time and be ready to fly without even forgetting a toothbrush. A book can be read or a luxurious nap had inflight. I am the savior of the plane, distracting screaming babies with a handy Tic Tac box they can never open. As a child, my teachers were amazed at just how many cousins I had, and that at least one got married every year.
Just how prolific were these grandparents?
Wedding season was super fun in my singlehood, but what wasn’t? Thankfully, it’s more fun as a mom because your concern for what people think grows absent. It’s a phenomenon that develops with each wedding season, so if you haven’t reached the point of “hell if I care,” it’s coming, and it’s GLORIOUS. Until you get to that point as a parent, I’ve summarized years of wedding travel tips and tricks with kids for anyone who is venturing out for a wedding event this season (or at any point).
Newborn to One Year
If you’ve survived air or plane travel at this age, nothing is harder than that part. You’re ahead right out of the gate.
It is absolutely critical to maintain baby’s routine regardless of time zone or party timings, because your baby will make life hell for you otherwise. There is no “keep him up” or “drug him to sleep '' shortcut. Sometimes NOT staying with the family is the best solution to maintain baby routines, but that’s not an option for everyone.
Second, remember that anything you need is a Walmart or Amazon delivery away. Order ahead to the address you’re staying at so essentials, such as diapers, wipes, washcloths and bottle paraphernalia are waiting for you when you arrive. If your wedding event is local, make sure you pack that stylish baby bag of yours with all the essentials your baby needs.
Accept help, especially if you have an easy-going baby who doesn’t have stranger anxiety yet. You have 100 cousins who want to hold the baby in between wedding events, so hand him off and go take a nap. At wedding events, if anyone offers, dump him and get on the dance floor or go eat something!
Layer a cotton onesie under the unfortunate wedding costume we will put the baby in for photos. Pack two backup outfits of lesser cuteness and greater functionality to these events, because a change is inevitable.
Mom’s clothes are magnets for oil, vomit, urine, snot and bright yellow baby poop as well as breast milk/formula stains. If you must wear ornate outfits, carry extra receiving blankets to protect the baby from the discomfort of your outfit and to absorb all the body fluid that’s coming. It’s surely coming. Your hijab will certainly get spit up on at the very least, and it’s essential to have ones that you can wash and wear.
Sit close to the door, because it will be YOUR BABY who starts wailing at ceremonies. If your child is not responding well to a rambunctious party, say goodbye quickly if you can or send a text and head out. Your hosts are too busy to care, and other guests will understand.
Finally, babies sleep exactly when you don’t want them to sometimes, especially with jet lag, or close to/during a wedding event. Bring the car seat/stroller/pram to all events in case baby needs a safe place to sleep. You can easily cover it up with your extra receiving blankets and park him with a trusted great-aunt or grandmother who will guard him. Pretend the sleeping child is not yours and bask in the glory of the aunties who think you’re still single. Remember to tell your husband. :)
This is the second worst season of mommying (we will discuss the worst shortly). Should you choose to accept this mission, you might self-destruct unless you assign a responsible teen to watch your toddler WHEN he leaves your line of sight. This will happen at least two dozen times, and a teenager must run to find him because even if you remembered to wear functional clothing AND functional shoes, you need an attentive teen as insurance.
Don’t pack expensive toys (or a favorite toy!) because these will be lost or taken by another child of similar age who doesn’t understand theft. Pack wipeable, washable toys as well as any activities that can keep your toddler stationary for at least 10 minutes. Dinner will be served late in most cases, so feed him prior to leaving for the events. Pack plenty of snacks for a second dinner or to keep him occupied when you need him to be still.
One piece of mom advice I’ll never forget is to always eat first as mom. A cranky, hungry mom will not be patient with a toddler who wants to do anything BUT eat. When he’s hungry for second dinner, offer portable food or put down a clean napkin or receiving blanket and present the food on it, because he’s 100 percent likely to eat something off the floor. Smile at the judging eyes.
In the moments when you have him, consider changing out your toddler into pajamas, because if he’s used to them, he might understand it’s bedtime. If anyone cares that he’s in pajamas at a wedding, remind the critic that Muslims created pajamas, and you’re proud of your history.
A lot of toddlers have at least started potty training at this age. However, when they’re having fun, they will forget; unless you were able to convince them to wear a Pull Up or diaper, there will be an accident. Without judgement, and with a lot of understanding, excitedly announce pajama time and change. He will be way more willing to get into a Pull Up or diaper after the accident. Experience is often the best teacher, for both of you.
Three (This Age Deserves Its Own Category)
My advice is not to attend any weddings at this age because THIS is the worst season of mommying. Or if you must attend, hire a babysitter and leave your three-year-old at home. Three is hard enough as it is. Why would you subject yourself to a threenager at a wedding?
If you must attend with your three-year-old, start getting dressed a lot earlier because your kid will want to do everything himself. His head will get stuck in an armhole, and he will try to wear his pants at the ankles first. It’s going to be too scratchy, too heavy, too tight or too irritating for him to put on without a fight. Or, he will want to wear his favorite superhero costume, mask and all. This, I believe, is a win because no one will be able to tell he’s yours at the event. Your give-a-crap account is almost empty, so you might just let him wear this. If you paid attention above, you packed a couple of changes of clothing as well as pajamas, and you’re ready for your child’s wedding antics.
This is the age when I think it’s completely appropriate to have electronics at hand, even for the whole night. Who cares if wedding guests judge you for his perpetual iPad usage? Zombie mode is better than destructive mode. Finally, remember that a three year old at his worst is begging for your attention or for sleep, the very things he fights the most. Attend what you can, and if he’s inconsolable, duck out.
This is the Golden Ticket to weddings, because kids are potty trained, feed themselves, (I hope so) and want to play. You can also bribe them with electronics, and they will wear pretty much anything you say, smile for photographs or at least keep still for them, and eat a meal in order to get their coveted device.
I would still make sure to know where your kids are, because you might only see them at dinner, which can be late. By this age, and hopefully at the last one, you’ve had the safe touch talk, and your kids ask you before they go to a lobby, a different area or the bathroom. Our family rule is that no one goes to the bathroom alone, and boys have to go to the ladies room with mom until they get too tall to go unnoticed. Thereafter they pair off together with same sex siblings or friends. I would highly suggest that similar family rules are maintained for child safety and agency, as well as mom’s peace of mind at any event, and not just at weddings.
The following are partial conversations you might have with this age group:
1. Yes, we have to go. I know there’s a wedding every year. Because family is important. I don’t know how they’re related.
2. I’ll let you use electronics (three to seven days depending on the duration of the wedding).
3. You have to wear it (repeat half a dozen times daily for three to seven days).
4. No, they’re not clown pants. No, you can’t fly in them if you jump off a roof. No, you don’t look like Aladdin. Okay, maybe a little.
5. Eat now. Trust me because we won’t eat dinner until bedtime. Pee before we leave because I am not undoing your Aladdin pants every time you have to go at the party.
6. Come here and give salam. Do it again. And again. I SAID, we’re related. Quit asking how.
7. Smile/pose for the photo. I said, “SMILE!” Fine, just stand there.
8. No, we can’t leave yet (repeat multiple times for three to seven days).
9. I don’t know when dinner is. This is why we ate before we left. Now you’ll be hungry until 10 p.m.
10. Get on stage for a picture. Come back here for a picture. We are taking family pictures!!!!
11. The food’s spicy? Aren’t you glad you ate before when I told you to? Oh, you didn’t. Fine, drink more Coke.
12. Can I just have ONE picture with all my kids? Just stand here away from your sister. Because you’ll want this picture after I’m dead! Forget it, get out of the picture. I’ll just pretend I don’t have any kids.
13. You can have chai. Because you already had two liters of Coke, and I don’t care anymore. Wait, you had how many cups of chai already?
14. We’re leaving right now. Right now. Oh, NOW you want to stay?
15. Where are your shoes/siblings/clothes? We are LEAVING!
Let’s be honest. Teens usually do not want to attend these events. If you can leave them home alone or with a family member, do so. However, if they are willing to attend, negotiate what they wear. Teens have fashion choices that deem respect from us – within reason. Otherwise, you don’t have to facilitate much else at a wedding for this age.
For those staying in town for wedding season, you have bypassed all that could go wrong while traveling, such as one million are we there yets by air, land, or sea fare; flight attendants eyeballing you as you board and the adhan app on your smartphone goes off, absent changing tables in aircraft bathrooms, COVID police, and worst of all, losing the one piece of luggage with all your party clothes in it.
Still, you may find the above helpful, and we are praying for your sanity this season.
Good luck, and say Bismillah!
Dr. Uzma Jafri is originally from Texas, mom to 4 self directed learners, a volunteer in multiple organizations from dawah resources to refugee social support services, and runs her own private practice. She is an aspiring writer and co host of Mommying While Muslim podcast, tipping the scales towards that ever elusive balance as the podcast tackles issues second generation Americans have the voice and stomach to tackle.